One of my favorite offices away from home: 1898 The Post in Gent

Digital nomad planning and preparation

To many extents, I am a digital nomad. For a larger part of the last 10 years, I have spent more than 200 nights per year from home. And although most of my nights are spent in Amsterdam (and to a lesser extent Prague, London and Paris). Recently, I have come to appreciate time away from my office at my clients to be able to have full, productive days (also, read my post on my favorite places to get work done). I did so recently when I spent several days in London and even more recently, when spending time in Stockholm. So, I decided to explore if working less from Amsterdam and more from other cities would make sense for me. So, here’s my post on my digital nomad planning and preparation.

Digital nomad?

As early as in 2008 (!) I registered the domain newnomading.com, preparing for a new life, working remotely from different parts of the world. Although I did end up traveling the world (and a lot), it didn’t turn out in the romantic way I had envisioned and/or many digital nomads do now.

Not long after, I met the love of my life, Marieke, and we decided on a more traditional travel approach and finally settled near Gent in Belgium. For work however, I do still travel a lot. Probably the closest you can get to a hybrid nomading lifestyle 😉 – spending the weekdays traveling the world, the weekends at home.

Step 1: settle on the idea for my digital nomad trip

So, the objective of this trip would be to see a) if working remotely works as well for me as I would think b) if this is indeed a valid replacement for my normal work weeks in terms of productivity c) how to actually find proper destinations and then finally d) if it would make sense to do more/longer of these trips throughout the year.

Several resources I used:

  • Nomadlist – an overview of best digital nomad cities, ranked on different variables.
  • Kayak Explore, function to spot cheap flights during a specific timeframe
  • A function in Kayak (“see when to go”) that allows you to find the best possible dates to travel
  • On top of that I used Tripadvisor and the Marriot, IHG and Hilton apps to first scout hotels and then find best deals.

Step 2: validate

Destinations requirements

Some requirements I set up for the destination:

  • Not overly expensive (along the lines of my weekly spend on hotel when I’m traveling Europe – also see “Staying at home is more expensive”)
  • With access to a resort-style swimming pool or beach (hey, important to unwind during the week)
  • A country/city I had not been before (ideally http://omakas.es/my-travel-plans/a country/city on my bucketlist)
  • Not too much travel time – as I would be only going for 5 nights, I didn’t feel like spending half a day or even a day of traveling. The only option would be having two night-flights

Possible digital nomad destinations

As I wanted to go to a country and city I had not been before, it ruled out some potential destinations like Portugal, the Spanish Islands, Japan, Athens (or other parts of Greece)

That left me with several options top of mind:

  • Dubai, Abu Dhabi
  • Marrakech, Marocco
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Zagreb or Dubrovnik (!), Croatia
  • Belgrade, Serbia

Step 3: settle on a date.

This was kind of a challenge. Eventually, I heavily relied on Kayak’s “see when to go” function to find best possible flight dates.

  • Tel Aviv was crazy expensive and I wasn’t too convinced by the semi-affordable local Indigo hotel (although I normally like them – like in Antwerp and The Hague)
  • Ljubljana did have an amazing-looking hotel (the Vander), but unfortunately it was one of the Design Hotels that isn’t part of the deal with Marriott Bonvoy (so I wouldn’t be earning points)
  • Zagreb or Dubrovnik’s hotel offering was either way overpriced (Dubrovnik) or I didn’t like them (Zagreb).
  • Belgrade didn’t have hotels I liked.

Eventually, I settled on a May trip to Dubai (Renaissance Hotel, Marriott) and a November trip to Marrakech (AnaYela, Marriott). Later, I actually found a very affordable flight and hotel to Dubrovnik, so settled on an end-of-July visit to Dubrovnik.

Step 4: lock-in the trip.

As soon as I found this, I locked the trip in.

Step 5: create a rough day planning for my digital nomad trip.

As soon as I locked in my trip, I started reaching out to people I know in Dubai and Marrakech – to gather tips and to catch up during my trip. This will probably turn into several meetings there.

[to be refined later]

Step 6: creating a packing list for my digital nomad trip.

I normally stick to my standard business travel packing list (also, see my favorite business travel gear). But I’ll make sure to pack an extra pair of swimming trunks this time 😉

Budget for my digital nomad trip

Dubai trip (May 2019)

Total cost estimate: €1100 + food and extras.

Dubrovnik trip (May 2019)

  • Transportation
    • Eventually ended up paying €218.81 flying Austrian (from Brussels, via Vienna, so helping towards my Lufthansa Frequent Flyer status 🙂 ).
  • Accommodation
    • I’m spending 5 nights for a total of 100.000 points (including breakfast and 5th night free as I am a Marriott Platinum member) at the Sheraton near Dubrovnik (in Mlini, a small village)
  • Food
  •  Extras

Total cost estimate: €218.81 + food and extras.

Marrakech trip (November 2019)

  • Transportation
    • Flying TAP airlines for around 170 euros
  • Accommodation
    • I decided to spend 25.000 of my Marriott Bonvoy points per night (and getting the 5th night for free), making a total of 100.000 points for
  • Food
  •  Extras

Total cost estimate: €170 + food and extras.

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